Fans of two now-defunct college stations are pursuing legal actions against the sale of the stations to Minnesota-based American Public Media Group.Two supporters of Florida’s Christian Family Coalition filed suit Oct. 18  in a state court in Miami to overturn Trinity International University’s September sale of former Christian music station WMCU to APMG, which aims to start a classical music station in Miami.
In the Twin Cities area, where a classical station was on the losing side, a group of former listeners to St. Olaf College’s bygone WCAL has questioned its sale to APMG’s Minnesota Public Radio, which converted it to The Current, a contemporary music station. On. Oct. 17 a county court appointed a former state judge, Gary J. Meyer, as a special master to quantify the college assets attributable to donors to the station.
Michael McNabb, attorney for Save WCAL, has said that the station’s building, tower and an endowment of more than $3 million came almost entirely from listener donations.
APMG said it is not a party in the WCAL case and won’t comment on it.
Both the Florida and Minnesota listener groups say the colleges’ fundraising incurred obligations to continue the noncommercial radio services for which they sought donations over the years.
In the Miami suit, longtime WMCU donors Gary Matthews and Lillian S. Delgado allege that Trinity is guilty of breach of contract, civil theft, fraud, civil conspiracy, misappropriation of charitable contributions and other infractions.
Trinity, based near Chicago, “secretly contacted a broker to look for buyers for our beloved station” in 2006, said Christian Family Coalition Executive Director Anthony Verdugo on the coalition’s website. The college received $20 million for the Miami station.
“We are giving a voice to the voiceless, those who feel frustrated and betrayed,” Verdugo told Current. “We as a community helped this station from its infancy.”
Alexander J. Alfano, the plaintiffs’ attorney in Coral Gables, charged that Trinity didn’t give the three weeks’ public notice required before selling a station.
The suit is directed largely at Trinity but lists APMG as a defendant, charging, for one thing, that it knowingly interfered with the relationship between WMCU’s owners and donors.
“We’re really just a buyer in this,” said APMG’s Miami attorney, Paul Shelowitz. APMG is confident that the plaintiffs have no legal ground to challenge the sale, he said.
APMG buys Twin Cities’ WCAL from St. Olaf College, one of many educational institutions selling pubradio stations, August 2004.
APMG announces purchase of Miami’s WMCU, September 2007.
WMCU asset purchase agreement (PDF) between APMG and Trinity International University, obtained by Christian Family Coalition.
Fans of classical station organized Save WCAL and questioned the college’s sale of the station.
Adherents of Christian station WMCU in Florida likewise organized Save WMCU.
Advocates for Christian station WMCU urge fans to help overturn Trinity’s sale of the station.
Copyright 2007 American University